Huntington High School’s AWOD club pursues its mission with unrelenting determination. While its membership changes from year to year as seniors graduate and incoming freshmen enter the fold, the work continues in an uninterrupted manner.
Huntington’s A World of Difference club, which is more commonly known by the acronym AWOD, promotes anti-bias and diversity programs that allow students to better understand the issues of prejudice and bigotry as well as providing a forum for exploring diverse viewpoints.
A recent training session drew 29 students. “Huntington alums Shandia Guyton and Kelly Martin shared their stories about AWOD ‘back in the day’ and how it changed their lives and where they are now,” said teacher Suzie Biagi, who serves as the club’s faculty advisor along with retired librarian Camille DeCanio. “Both offered support and encouragement to today’s members.”
Once a “safe environment” had been established by the students involved in the training session, they quickly launched into a set of well planned activities. Recently retired Washington Primary School teacher Debbie Quiles was this year’s guest speaker, sharing her story as students attentively listened.
The training session’s “curriculum” was developed by club veterans. Some of the sessions included “a time for sharing,” “getting to know each other” and “exploring issues.” A scavenger hunt helped promote team building.
There was also a “ROPES” exercise where members were asked to examine the ties that bind and the nets that keep them safe by choosing words that begin with each letter of the word ROPES.
Club members shared heartfelt tales about their “personal artifacts” and then engaged in activities that explored issues regarding diversity appreciation, misconceptions and stereotypes in an effort to enhance perceptions about different peoples and cultures
“Huntington’s AWOD club offers ever evolving anti-bias training programs, which continually focus on the development of an inclusive culture and respectful school and community climate by addressing issues of bias and bullying,” Mrs. Biagi said.
Graffiti boards were utilized to address current cultural and stereotypical issues. The boards spurred large group discussions, which included challenges to misconceptions.
The most important message stressed by AWOD veterans at any training session has always been “the power of one.” AWOD’s membership consists of a true melting pot of personalities and backgrounds. The disparate parts of the group easily came together during annual training sessions.
This year’s AWOD officers include co-Presidents Alexis Aviles and Angelica Hernandez, co-junior Presidents Cassidy Casanova and Sophia Machetta, Treasurer Madeline Bavaro and co-Secretaries Brianna Isaza and Isabella Orjuela.
As students filed out of the training session and headed home, they seemed energized as AWOD begins to pursue the current year’s mission.